In this Pulwama village, Muslims are renovating a temple for lone Pandit family

The videos showing men from a Hindu right-wing group beating two Kashmiri dry fruit vendors in Lucknow unsettled 50-year-old Mohammad Younus of Pulwama. It, however, did not held him back from working voluntarily for the renovation of a temple.

For past few weeks, Younus along with several other residents have been renovating a century old Shiv temple at sleepy Achan village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

Younus says that he always wanted to see again his Pandit brothers striking a clapper against a sound bow in the temple, standing right alongside a mosque in the village.

“Often I remember those images of pre-1990s when the bells were ringing in the temple.”

Around 50 Pandit families were residing in the village. However, when most of the Pandits left the valley in early nineties, just a single family of the community stayed back.

“We were four families who decided not to leave our homeland. However, after few years the other three also left,” said Sanjay Sharma, who along with his family continues to live in the village.

As the years passed, the roof of the temple caved in and the walls started withering while a spring in its premises also dried up. Before the structure would collapse completely, the local Auqaf committee chipped in.

“We approached the district administration several times and asked them to do something for the renovation of the temple,” said Mir Nazir, chairman of the Auqaf committee.

Finally, the administration allocated Rs 4 lakh for the renovation work.

“As soon as the renovation work was taken up, locals came forward and worked alongside the labourers,” said Nazir.

He said that at a time when Kashmiri students and business men were being attacked and humiliated outside Kashmir, their village sent out a message of communal harmony and camaraderie.

Sanjay Sharma said that it was because of the efforts of local Auqaf committee that the renovation work took off.

“The temple had been in ruins for almost three decades and was now about to crumble. A single family could not have made it happen,” he said.

Sharma complained that his family has been living in poverty and government barely paid any attention towards them.

“Here too locals came to my rescue. They got me the job of bank guard at local ATM,” he said.
Gulzar Bhat